Saving lives runs in the family for Dr. Christopher Brennan.
The West Islip native is a Hospitalist in the Emergency Department at Good Samaritan. As a kid he worked as a life guard at Fire Island, following the footsteps of his parents and siblings.
The commitment to caring continues at home for Dr. Brennan. His wife, Dr. Janet Cevallos Brennan, is also a physician at Good Sam and served in the United Sates Navy as a member of a helicopter search team as well as an amphibious rescue unit.
“Our entire lives have been dedicated to helping people who are in distress,” said Dr. Brennan.
That training proved useful on a recent fishing trip with his friends in the Great South Bay when he saw an elderly man fall off a nearby boat and into the water.
“I didn’t even think about it, I just grabbed a life vest and jumped right in,” he recalls.
Dr. Brennan saw the man bobbing up and down in the water. When he got closer, he heard him coughing and realized he’d swallowed a significant amount of water.
“I tried to put the life vest on him, but he said it was too tight around his neck and choking him. We didn’t have many options at that point, so I laid on my back, put my arms around him and held him above water for 20 or 30 minutes.”
The water-loving physician estimates he’s out, either fishing, surfing or boating, several days a week. On this particular Friday in October though, the water near the Robert Moses Bridge was particularly tedious.
“It was rough, windy and cold,” said Dr. Brennan. “We were in about 30 feet of water and the wind was blowing at about 25 miles per hour. It seemed like we were out there forever.”
Finally, other boaters and the coast guard arrived and they attempted to lift the man to safety. However, it proved too difficult so Dr. Brennan put the man on his shoulders and pushed him up and over the railing onto the deck of the boat.
Once at the Coast Guard station, both men were transported to Good Samaritan. Dr. Brennan suffered minor injuries to his right leg and was discharged. As he was preparing to leave, a woman walked up to him and said, “Thank you for saving my husband’s life.”
The man who he saved was standing there, a little banged up and exhausted from the ordeal but ready to head home.
A few hours after saving his life, Dr. Brennan wheeled that same man out of the hospital and dropped him off at his car, joking that this was all part of the full-service experience offered to patients at Good Sam.
The incredible event provided an extra special meaning for Dr. Brennan and his family. Just days earlier, his grandmother passed away and despite the intense sadness he had experienced, he was finally able to find a silver lining.
“Yes, I lost somebody who I was very close with, but I can take great comfort in knowing that I was able to save the life of someone else’s loved one.”